Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As we prepare for the IFP’s national Women’s Brigade Conference scheduled for this weekend, I am reminded again of how far South Africa has come in the fight for gender equality. I am proud to have been a champion of this fight for more than half a century.
It is hard to imagine that just twenty years ago married women in South Africa, whether black or white, were regarded as minors. It is even harder to believe that the first crack in that mindset did not come from within white society, but from right here in KwaZulu when, under my leadership, we repealed provisions of the Code of Native Law to enable women, even married women, to own property.
This was a first step towards the future. Today, we are still working towards the full affirmation of the position which our country’s Constitution and the law recognize for women in every sphere of our society. The transformation of our society needs to continue to be led by women.
I have warned before that the legislative transformation needs to be met with a social transformation; a change in mindset, culture and habits. The Constitution and the many pieces of legislation we have adopted in the past seventeen years will remain mere promises for as long as society does not change within families, schools, workplaces and communities.
In Parliament, the IFP has been at the forefront of several battles to protect the rights of women. We succeeded in convincing the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to insert a provision in the Protection from Harassment Bill which addresses sexual harassment in the workplace. This small victory empowers women working across South Africa, who no longer have to fear becoming the object of unwelcome sexually oriented attention, comments or gestures.
There were similar provisions in the Labour Relations Act, but they were toothless, because no remedy was afforded to women. Nevertheless, it will take some time to change entrenched habits in the workplace and anywhere else in society.
The IFP has also fought for the position of women at community level, knowing that women are the most vulnerable link within the social chain. If we can protect the most vulnerable link, the entire social chain will have the strength our laws and Constitution require.
For this reason, it was the IFP which tabled on the agenda of the Human Rights Commission the urgency of putting a halt to the scourge of the so-called "corrective" or "curative" rape, which happens when a woman is gang raped allegedly to cure her of homosexuality.
There is much more that needs to be done and more that should be said.
However, I know that what needs to be said must now be said by women, through women and for women. The evolution of our society demands that women raise their voices to speak for themselves. In the IFP we are committed to supporting women in this endeavor.
Times have changed, and the IFP has changed with them. When I grew up, women were expected to back men in their pursuits. But today, progress itself demands that men back women in their pursuits, because the world can only be enhanced by an ever greater role of women. Through their equal position and their leadership in all building blocks of our society, women hold the key to the future of South Africa.
This weekend, I look forward to engaging the women of the IFP on their role as custodians of our Party’s vision.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP